North Twin 3730 m
Jasper National Park, Alberta (click for map, click here for weather)
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South and North Twins showing North Twin ski ascent route.
Two glaciated peaks known as The Twins are located at the far north end of Columbia Icefield. In this section of the Icefield await 5 peaks over 11,000 ft (3353 m) high that are popular spring ski mountaineering destinations. En route you pass two more big peaks. Most parties allow 3 days for a trip to this area as it takes a full day from Athabasca Glacier to reach a suitably-close campsite. Roped skiing is the norm due to many crevasses in the 300 metre thick glacial ice. Unlike the Matterhorn in the Alps, there are no huts; groups carry tents for shelter and melt snow for water. Good weather is never a given here, but is an absolute must for success. Map/compass navigation may be necessary due to whiteout conditions. Serious business!
click to enlarge photos
Stopping for a break below "the Ramp" on Athabasca Glacier. Above this slope the angle eases and you are then upon on the huge Columbia Icefield. This area shown is heavily crevassed, although it may look relatively innocent. Skiing up this slope roped to your partner(s) is fine, but skiing down it roped up with a full pack on is a real test of friendship!
A 2 person tent will be our cozy home for 3 days out on Columbia Icefield. Behind are South Twin (L) and North Twin (Right). We built a snow-wall to break the strong wind the first night.
View of the east side of Mount King Edward from camp, in the evening. This peak is done as a summer climb.
Heading up the southeast slopes of North Twin from camp in the morning. The route goes to the left up the easiest angle to gain the skyline ridge. This was May long weekend in1999. Unusually good weather prevailed for a change and about 20- 30 others were there taking advantage of the fine conditions too. This sure beats watching hockey but then, so does sitting in a tent in a storm...
South Twin (3580 m) as seen from North Twin. Normal route ascends right skyline ridge. Columbia is just showing to the left edge.
Nearing the top of North Twin, which is surprisingly large. Note the overhanging cornice where a section of the permanent summit ice has melted back. North Twin is third highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. Mount Robson is highest; Columbia is second highest. None matches Mount Whitney's height in California, but nonetheless, I find these Canadian Rockies infinitely more enjoyable and challenging. Way less crowded too.
At 3730 m (12,234ft) on the summit ridge of North Twin, a few hours north of our campsite on the Icefield.
From North Twin, a view of the initially broad ascent ridge of South Twin. In the background is Mount Columbia; the left facing slope is the east face, the standard way up.
© all photos copyright by the author 1999.
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